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12 Notable Performances of 2014: A Personal Appreciation

Most people in the Seattle dance community know Anne Lawrence. A faithful mega-fan of all things dance, Anne can usually be found sitting front and center at whatever show (or shows!) are playing on any given weekend. Anne is one of the many audience members that help keep our city’s dance scene vibrant. As someone who’s seen it all (and almost one hundred dance events in a year comes pretty close to “it all”) she offered a note of appreciation for some of her most memorable moments of 2014. We’re happy to share Anne’s Guest Editorial on SeattleDances, especially because she highlights many of the unsung moments we weren’t able to cover on our site. As we start the new year, it’s a great time to take stock of what happened in the last twelve months, pine over what we may have missed, and look forward to whatever is coming next. So cheers to a wonderful and dance-filled 2015! ―Mariko Nagashima and Anna Waller, SeattleDances Editors

Thanks to the editors of SeattleDances for allowing me to contribute this year-end love letter to some of the choreographers, companies, and dancers whose performances moved me most profoundly in 2014. I attended over 90 different dance events this year, and selecting only twelve to highlight was no easy task. With a few exceptions, I’ve tried to focus on smaller venues, independent productions, and less publicized events; even so, I’ve had to leave out many outstanding works. With these caveats, here’s my list of twelve notable dance performances of 2014, in chronological order:
zoe | juniper in BeginAgain
Photo by Jazzy Photo

1. zoe | juniper, BeginAgain: Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey, directors (On The Boards, March 27-30).

My most vivid memories of this dark, mysterious work include the magic created by Amiya Brown’s lighting design and Shuey’s video effects; Scofield’s mesmerizing, slightly-out-of-synch duets with Ariel Freedman; Kate Wallich moving like a beautiful machine in her dynamic solo; and most of all, Freedman and her shadow performing yet another slightly-out-of-synch duet with a not-quite-mirror-image projected shadow.

2. Boost Dance Festival: Marlo Martin & Kristen Legg, directors (Erickson Theater, April 4-5 and 11-12).

BOOST offered many rewards this year, but none greater than the rare opportunity to see choreographer Martin dance in her own work, Wake State post-lucid dream. Since arriving in Seattle twelve years ago, Martin has created not only the BOOST festival but also a professional company, a body of choreography, a studio, a pre-professional training program, and a community. Watching her perform with her company, one could see the qualities that have made these achievements possible—her energy, virtuosity, passion, vision, and love—embodied and shining forth abundantly.

3. Cornish Dance Theater Spring Concert: Deborah Wolf, artistic director (Broadway Performance Hall, April 18-19).

The promised production of Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters never materialized, but first-rate pieces by Wolf, Iyun Ashani Harrison, Jamie Karlovich, and Zoe Scofield were worthy replacements. Scofield’s Eleven, which I had seen several times previously, once again delighted me; and Wolf’s Passing Measures was yet another marvelous creation by one of Seattle’s most under-appreciated choreographers.

4. Spectrum Academy Performances: Donald Byrd, artistic director (Spectrum Dance Theater Studio, April 26-27).

Three things made this concert especially memorable: the enthusiasm of the very young, very professional Academy dancers; choreographer Eva Stone’s enigmatic work, Barricade; and the remounting of Byrd’s luscious . . . and their souls will understand from 2004.

Sarah Seder in Karin Stevens’ In the Bleak Mid-winter at Converge Dance Festival
Photo by Jazzy Photo

5. Converge Dance Festival: Sapience Dance Collective, producer (Velocity Dance Center, May 2-3).

Every piece in this concert was enjoyable, but two in particular stood out. Katy Hagelin’s The Machinery’s Conundrum combined intricate construction, strong balletic technique, and heroic ethos; and Sarah Seder’s performance of Karin Stevens’ exquisite In the Bleak Mid-Winter was like glimpsing the face of God.

6. Bellevue College Dance Company: Maya Soto, director (Carlson Theater at Bellevue College, May 9-10).

The few Seattle residents who ventured across the lake to attend these concerts experienced a rare pleasure: The six eager young women of the Bellevue College Company performing five new works set on them by Soto and four superb guest choreographers (Amy Johnson, Marlo Martin, Eva Stone, and Markeith Wiley), along with four works performed by the guest choreographers themselves or their professional companies. Let’s hope this concert becomes an annual event.

Cara May Marcus in Donald Byrd's Septet Photo by Nate Watters
Cara May Marcus in Donald Byrd’s Septet
Photo by Nate Watters

7. Spectrum Dance Theater and Simple Measures, Rambunctious: A Festival of American Composers and Dance: Donald Byrd & Rajan Krishnaswami, artistic directors (Fremont Abbey Arts Center, May 15-17).

In this eclectic concert, five world premiere works choreographed by Byrd were danced by a Spectrum ensemble that included Cara May Marcus and Justin Reiter (both of whom have since left the company), to the accompaniment of music performed by the Simple Measures string quartet. Byrd wrote in the program notes that he hoped the experience would be “bold, exhilarating, and thrilling.” I’m happy to report that his hopes were fully realized.

8. Robert Moses’ Kin: Robert Moses, artistic director (World Dance Studio Series, Meany Studio Theater, May 29-31).

Moses’ company presented six diverse works that employed a wide-ranging movement vocabulary, displayed exciting, elegant choreography, and emphasized intensity, musicality, and expressive partnering. Some of the works, notably Speaking Ill of the Dead, even accomplished the rare feat of addressing political themes without being strident or heavy-handed. If it sounds like I’ve described a marriage of Spectrum Dance Theater and Kidd Pivot, that’s pretty much what it felt like.

ARC Dance company dancers in Jason Ohlberg's The Blue Room Photo by Paul Sanders
ARC Dance company dancers in Jason Ohlberg’s The Blue Room
Photo by Paul Sanders

9. ARC Dance, Summer Dance at the Center: Marie Chong, artistic director (Leo K. Theater at Seattle Center, July 17-19).

Summer Dance at the Center, always a welcome relief from Seattle’s mid-summer dance drought, offered one of its most satisfying programs in recent memory. The works performed included Jason Ohlberg’s charming The Blue Room; Alex Ketley’s lush, technically demanding Duo; and the first movement of Mark Kane’s jazz masterpiece, Of Passion You Have Plenty, which was six-and-half minutes of pure ecstasy.

10. Karin Stevens Dance and Sam Boshnack Quintet: Karin Stevens, artistic director (Velocity Dance Center, October 3-4).

Stevens’ renewed self-confidence, appetite for risk-taking, and seemingly inexhaustible energy paid off brilliantly in this ambitious, consistently entertaining concert. Everything worked at the highest level: The dancers, magnificent movers all, were thoroughly rehearsed; the choreography was imaginative and sophisticated; the live jazz music was complex yet accessible; and the communication between the dancers and musicians appeared effortless. The performers richly deserved the standing ovations they received both nights.

11. UW Chamber Dance Company: Hannah Wiley, artistic director (Meany Hall, October 9-12).

According to Wiley, the underlying theme of this year’s concert was simply “work I love.” This meant selections from Susan Marshall’s witty, surprisingly moving constructivist work, Cloudless; Nacho Duato’s acclaimed early ballet, Jardi Tancat; and Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith’s AIDS-era meditation on love, community, and mortality, To Have and To Hold. All were danced to perfection by the UW MFA students and invited guest artists.

Michele Miller’s What We Have in modus operandi
Photo by Jazzy Photo

12. Michele Miller/Catapult Dance and Alana O Rogers Dance Company, modus operandi: Michele Miller and Alana O Rogers, producers (Velocity Dance Center, October 10-12).

This concert featured several appealing works, including Rogers’ intriguing SIGHT, but it made my list primarily on the strength of Miller’s What We Have, a lovely exploration of modern partnering performed with consummate skill by Danica Bito, Becca Blackwell, and Jana Kincl. The intuitive communication between the dancers, their smooth movements into and out of the floor, and their finely calibrated shifts of weight and applications of force led me to say to myself, time and time again, “Oh my God, that was AMAZING!”

-Anne A. Lawrence